30 July 2010

A Bittersweet Farewell

Dear D.C. ~

You were my first.  And just like all first loves, I'll always remember you with bittersweet fondness and smiles.  There may be an ache from time to time tugging at the heartstrings.  And there may be times when I simply shake my head and think, "look how far I've come since then."

But not tonight.  Tonight, I thank you.  

I thank you for the memories.  Good, bad, mundane, never to be forgotten, and already forgotten.  Every single one of these lovely memories have made me who I am today.  And for that, D.C., I'll always love you. 

D.C., you were my first real taste of true independence.  

I flirted with you a time or two when I was a co-ed.  Came to visit you, was seduced by the charm of the moonlit monuments and the taste of the power to change the world and the sophisticated urbane lifestyle that contrasted so sharply with my college in the cornfields.  

I came to you, young and wide-eyed.  I was in awe of the big weighty importance that came with living in our capital city and working for the federal government of one of the world's most powerful countries.  I knew I would have adventures and I knew I would make mistakes.  But I also knew, somehow, amongst your infuriating traffic circles and Metro stations and marble hallways, I would be okay.  I could find my way. 

And I did.  I grew from the wide-eyed, cliche intern to a hard-core, jaded policy wonk who did big, important, world-changing things that really did (and still do) make a difference.  I educated myself -- in politics (both the traditional D.C. politics and the generic office kind), in getting around without a car, in matters of the heart and in matter of bed, in a Master's program and in how to switch jobs successfully, in just how much I can drink in a night and still function at work the next day, and in that the answer to almost all that bothers me is to walk, and walk, and walk some more. 

I wandered through history and the future and some neighborhoods my Mom shall never know about.  I read on the grounds of the National Cathedral when it was my backyard.  I learned that my favorite place in D.C. isn't quite in D.C., but rather, is that moment when the Yellow line pulls out over the Potomac and you can first glimpse my favorite monument -- Jefferson -- and the Washington Monument and there's a plane flying into DCA overhead and the moonlight reflects off the Potomac.  In that magic moment, I felt like this was my city and I belonged here right now right in that moment.

I picnicked at Jazz in the Garden and danced on rooftops with a view of the Washington Monument.  I discovered the best places to kiss and the best place to break hearts (ahem, I'm eying you, Chinatown Starbucks).  I found my favorite little dance place is the second floor in a now defunct jazz bar on U Street.  I mingled.  I shamelessly flirted for free drinks.  And I learned the seductive power of magnolias and dogwoods in the sultry June moonlight. 

I know you, D.C. I know Ben's Chili Bowl, and 5 Guys, and Wok N' Roll, and the best Fro-ZEN-Yo, and where to nap in the park on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and where to dance all night long, and what the sun looks like when it rises over the Capitol.  I know where the best daytime and nighttime views of the D.C. skyline can be found.  I know how to impress out-of-towners with my directions and knowledge of Metro turnstiles.  I know the best place to wait for a train in the Chinatown station and how to walk to just about anywhere in the city from Chinatown.  And if I got lost, I knew it was okay -- I'd find my way soon enough.  

Each of your neighborhoods - Chinatown, U Street, LeDroit, Capitol Hill, Tenleytown, Georgetown, Shaw, DuPont, Columbia Heights to name a few - represent a different stage of our love affair, D.C.  My co-ed visits, my intern days, my early working days, my stressed out, mono-haze grad education, my post-grad education, my "I can now afford to buy myself a decent drink" days.  Each of which holds their own special place in my heart. 

I learned what counts in love -- with people, with passions, and with places -- and, D.C., you've given me so many firsts.  First kisses.  First independence.  First taste of Ethiopian food.  First "I know where I am" moment -- literally and figuratively.  First jaded moment.  First sense of "I really do make a difference."  First courage to speak my mind and get exactly what I wanted.  First tears on the Metro.  First (and hopefully last) sound of gunshots on a summer night.  First trans-Atlantic phone call.  First discovery that I can and am living a life much larger than I ever dreamed possible.

And in addition to the treasures of firsts, D.C., you've given me some forevers too.  Forever friends, who, no matter how many miles are now between us, will always be there with a laugh and a hug for the good and the bad.  Forever proof that I can go anywhere on my own and thrive, not just survive, in the face of adversity and uncertainty.  Forever knowledge that the world is open to me, so long as I keep an open mind and a current passport.  Forever love, in the form of friendships, and in the form of this relationship that has me saying farewell to you, D.C.

But like most first loves, our love has become a love-hate relationship and has become stale.  So now is the time that I need to say goodbye.  It's time to pull myself out while there's still some love in this relationship.  It's time for new, and bigger, and different challenges.  And I truly can't wait.   But, D.C., you will always hold a special part in my heart because you opened the door to this new and wonderful life of mine. 

Thank you, D.C, for the memories. 
Love Always, 

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